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Swindon Town 1 Forest Green Rovers 0
Swindon Town won the top of the table clash with Forest Green Rovers through a single Meg Vella goal to open up a three point lead in the FAWPL South West Division One table.
Going into the match level on points and with identical goal differences, it was the Wiltshire side who made the crucial breakthrough on 40 minutes in a hard fought contest between two well organised and highly committed teams who will surely be rivals in the promotion race throughout the season.
On a Fairford Town pitch in remarkable shape given recent weather, the visitors opened brightly but it was not long before Swindon started to find their rhythm and passing range. Forest Green were resolute in defence all through the game but the hosts were still able to carve out chances. Vella released Beth Thompson on the right and her inviting cross was headed just over by Sally Butterfield on 10 minutes.
Michelle Rich delivered dangerous corners from both flanks and a Chyna Collings far post header was narrowly wide on 21 minutes. Two minutes later, Thompson fired in a low shot which evaded keeper Georgina Macey's grasp but slowed in the muddy goalmouth and was retrieved just in time.
Both teams were mainly restricted to long range efforts from open play by excellent covering from both midfield units and defenders. It was always likely that a set piece or piece of luck might prove the decider. In fact, both came into play for Swindon's opener.
Rich delivered her sixth corner of the half which was initially well defended. The ball fell to Vella on the edge of the area who hit a low shot on target, a deflection off a defender's heel wrong footing the keeper on 40 minutes.
Forest Green went close to equalising right on the break with their best effort of the half, a Sammy Hallsworth cross shot flying narrowly wide of Robyn Levett's left post but Swindon had just about deserved their lead for the extended pressure they had exerted on the visitors.
A one-goal lead would never allow Swindon any comfort and again Forest Green started brightly, Levett moving quickly from her line to gather at Charlotte King's feet. The Swindon keeper showed good handling from a 20-yard Hallsworth effort whilst her opposite number got down well to hold a Vella shot on 66 minutes. Swindon sub Meg Attenborough shot just over the bar with a first time effort from 25 yards out on the right on 74 minutes but both defences were very sound and chances were at a premium.
Forest Green pushed forward as time ran out, looking for a vital equaliser. Several promising moves were thwarted either by an offside flag or a final pass being intercepted and they never managed to break clear or threaten the home goal directly. At the other end, the second Swindon sub Sarah Uzzell had the ball in the net late on but play was brought back for a foul on the defender. In truth, Swindon saw out the six added minutes with some authority and style to record an important win.
It was easy to see why both teams are high in the South West Division One table, well organised with a core of players experienced and successful at this level. The margins between victory and defeat were pretty small. On the day, the hosts probably had more players who played at the top of their game and created more successfully down the wings and from excellent set piece delivery and thus completed a League 'double' over their Gloucestershire visitors.
Swindon Town: Robyn Levett, Lisa Coe, Kelly Nightingale, Sam Quinn, Laura Morgan, Chyna Collings, Beth Thompson, Michelle Rich, Sally Butterfield, Ellie Maynard, Meg Vella. Subs: Sarah Uzzell, Meg Attenborough.
Forest Green Rovers: Georgina Macey, Abbie Sadler, Natalie Holbrook, Rosie Bidder, Amy Baker, Jodie Shepherd, Sammy Hallsworth, Ellie Olds, Charlotte King, Kirsty Richardson, Sophie Okey. Subs: Hayley Kent, Sarah Stacey, Naomi Marshall.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Beth Thompson tries to get past Sophie Okey
(middle) Kirsty Richardson battles with Chyna Collings
(bottom) Ellie Olds and Chyna Collings go to great lengths to win the ball!
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